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Touring tips, hints and tricks

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' at netrider.net.au started by dooleysam, Feb 16, 2015.

  1. Hello everyone,
    Sometime this year (as soon as I have the dollars to do it) I WILL be riding around Australia on my '07 Suzuki GS500!
    As the title says I need your advice on things like what absolute essentials I will need. Things like spare parts and so on.
    I also want to know what you have done to your bike to make it more comfortable on long trips.
    I have done a few 400-500km day trips and weekends and I have noticed that I am a lot less fatigued after these rides now then I was on my first. Sheepskin seat might help quite a bit I think.

    I was going to wait until I got my full license (August 2016!) and ride a BMW F800GS but after watching a guy ride his gs500 from Sydney to Broome I decided that I'd give it a go.

    Trying to keep this short so any other things I should know would be a great help! Also places to see so I can add them to my map:)

  2. #2 TWEET, Feb 16, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2015
    Riding a GS500 around Aus will be a big challenge. This is normally the domain of the big bore sports tourers and luxury tourers.
    Consider your cost of daily accommodation unless you plan to carry a plebbo tent and camp most nights, it will be your biggest cost otherwise.

    You will need at least 1 set of tyres on route and a service, plan those. Carry some oil, GS500's are known to use some when on higher speed long distance runs. Also consider how much life is remaining in that chain & sprocket, it is about 20,000km round the block and you may well need a replacement along the way.
    Airhawk and or sheepskin for the seat, a throttle rocker or other cruise control device to rest that throttle hand, because Australia is a huge place, and many bits of the outback have very long straight bits of road for several hundred km between towns.

    If you plan to ride after dark outside metro areas (on a round Aus trip much the majority of your riding will be in outback areas) consider some auxiliary lighting (https://www.clearwaterlights.com) but check the size of that little GS500 stator output first, again another reason the big bikes are better suited. Some hard luggage (unsure if you can fit more than a topbox to a GS500) to keep your gear dry and dust free, again, the big tourers usually have the right bags fitted as standard items.

    Don't do it during summer, it is way too hot in the Northern half of the continent, especially out in the Western plains of QLD/WA and the NT. Nake sure your clothing is very comfortable, and flexible so that it can be worn all day, and in different conditions.

    There are more things to consider, but I'm heading out now. I'm one to always encourage noobs to get out of the cities and enjoy the long roads we have in Aus, but in this case I'm going to say that your choice of bike is far far from an ideal one for such a trip and I encourage you to seek something better suited. Consider how long this trip will take, it isn't something to take on lightly, and it will take a good month at the very least, likely somewhat more. You are looking at 21 ish days if you knock over 1000km every single day, and that leaves no time to see or do anything.

    Couple of pics for you ;)

    NT Border. Huge man made lake in desert. DSC02466.JPG DSC02472.JPG
  3. There is an Adventure Riders section here on Netrider, I'm sure there'd be some good advice there, and, of course, there are heaps of Adventure riders forums on the 'net in general
    best of luck, by the way
  4. Forgot to mention I already have soft panniers and was planning on getting a top box or a rack at least for those extras.
    I'm going to try and camp as much as possible and when that's not possible I will stay in hostels.
    There's loads of things I want to see so I don't care of it takes me 6 months:) I could always just find a short term job if needed.
    I'm looking at going clockwise so I can spend the warmer months in the southern parts.
  5. Great Expedition. I wish you the best of luck, a fabulous country to see.

    Go for a lockable top box, there are some light fingered people around so the ability to lock stuff securely is worthwhile. If you are going to camp then get the best camping gear you can afford and see to your little comforts, lighting, bedding, etc. I use a rubber backed picnic rug as the base of my tent, it isolates you from the cold of the ground a bit. Pick your campsites carefully, that lovely river view may have crocs.

    A Spot messenger may be worthwhile, you can set it to upload your position to a web site if you like so your family can see where you are and that you are safe, it also has a one button SOS if needed. Alternatively the Thuraya Satellite network have a thing called a Satsleve that your mobile phone connects with and gives you Satellite coverage. Pivotel are their Aussie agents I think?

    Range, you will have problems with your range, there is a long way between petrol stations in some areas. You will probably need an auxiliary tank. Pay attention to the manufacturers specs on loading, an overloaded bike will cause you issues. Carry water, if things go pear shape you may be by the side of the road a while until someone comes along.

    Colder months in the North is best as you have sussed, less rain and cooler to travel.

    I admire your ambition, plan with a level head and with an idea of what can go wrong and how you would deal with that situation. Do some trial runs, weekenders covering long distances to see if you are bike fit enough. Preferably the trial runs should be with your fully loaded kit so you get used to the weight of the bike, how you pack, unpack, setup camp etc.
  6. Caravanners tell me that due to the prevailing winds in AU, going round anti-clockwise uses significantly less fuel.

    SAUCE: My parents are over 65 and drive 85km/hr on the freeway. Yes, some of those.
  7. The GS500 suspension is notoriously soft (I know, I've got one). I believe it is possible to upgrade the front by putting in beefier springs and a heavier weight of fork oil, and the back by putting in a R6 shock, but no idea if it is worth it (http://gstwins.com/gsboard/index.php?topic=63827.msg758199#msg758199)

    The gstwins site is worth a look for advice and/or to see what other mad buggers have done to/with their GS's

    Or... If you have the coin and don't have a serious case of duck's disease you could consider getting a LAMS DL650 V-Strom. But then again, people have made huge trips on postie bikes (eg Sydney-London)
  8. I didn't even think of a location device. Will have a look!
    I will have a jerry can with me, that is on my priorities list along with the water.

    Has anyone had experience with a swag? Just thinking instead of having a tent and mat rolled separately.

    The direction I travel all depends on when I leave really. But I will keep that in mind.
    And if I were to get another bike to do the trip I'd wait until the end of next year to get the bmw. But that's a whole new discussion.
  9. Make the first thing you get a puncture repair kit and compressor.
    A swag is going to be bulky, but not being a tent aficionado, I'm unsure how much more or less bulky than a tent with some sort of mattress.
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  10. A few suggestions.

    You could just run with your phone and credit card, and make it fine, but preparation can make it so much easier in the long run.

    Lockable storage is necessary for peace of mind. If only to make sure your stuff is safe when you shower etc.

    We camped crossing the Nullarbor. It means carrying a bit more stuff, but not a lot more. Tent, some sort of mattress, and sleeping bag are the minimum. Don't forget something to hammer the pegs in with.

    Are you feeding yourself? Or buying? It makes a difference to the cost, and where you can stay, and how much you carry. We brought a Trangia, and stocked up on cans of food we could reheat.

    From my experience, modern bikes seem to be able to ride all day on the highways without major incident. Just get it serviced before you go, check tyres and chain, and think about a service and tyres half way around. If you are leaving from Melbourne, that may be Darwin. If you are in Brisbane, it could be Perth.

    Heat. Winter up north can still be hot. You will need to manage it.

    Cold. We nearly froze in January in Kalgoorlie due to a tropical low dumping 300+ mm of rain in a day on us. Think about quality wet weather gear.

    Clothes? How many changes? How stale do you like being? How often can you wash?

    Fuel can be an issue. From memory the longest stretch around is in Northern WA, about 310 kms. But you will use more fuel than normal with a heavier load. Headwinds can also chew throughs the fuel. Consider a fuel bladder rather than a jerry can. They stack much easier.

    Bring water. Fill it every chance you get. If you don't need it, that is great. But if you get caught somewhere, lack of water is a killer

    Consider an EPIRB or whatever the land equivalent is. Mobile phones will not work for large sections of your trip, and telstra is better than the others out of the cities.

    Lastly, have fun. A trip like this is awesome, and something you will tell your grandkids about. Go for it!



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  11. There's an adventure riders section here somewhere? I better have another look...
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  12. Adventure/Endure under Specific Bike Types...
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  13. Important caveat:
    If you take everything we tell you to you will end up with a trailer behind that GS! Weight will be very important especially if you pull over only to find that sand is not just over the road but is filling a 20cm deep rut and the bike is going over. Just consider it input to your own decisions.

    When you think you know what you will need to take, pack it all and head off for a bit of a ride. You probably wont go far before realising you need to cut more out so do this a few times till it all feels .. OK, if not good.

    Secure everything well, especially with a gerry can and a couple of litres of water. A simple cargo net is good for some light things but something like ROK straps rock for heavier.

    First aid kit. Add in Panadol/Nurofen, insect repellant, eye drops (dry eyes in sandy/windy conditions or even insects etc in the eyes!) and non-stick dressings that usually dont come in them (get a bleeding/oozing graze and you'll thank me you didnt just cover it with gauze!)

    Keep things in waterproof bags. Bags that wont break open easily. Use a number of small bags, not one big one so if you do get a leak it wont soak everything.

    Keep wet weather gear easily and quickly accessible (you'll have little warning sometimes to get at it and get it on)

    Swag vs tent etc. Never heard of a light weight swag but someone might have made one. Whatever you choose keep it light, keep it small.

    Get a small fold up backpack (I've got one that folds into a pocket a couple of cms2). Invaluable when you want to head off on two feet instead of two wheels and rest the butt for a day or two.

    Add a few things to the GS tool kit. Make certain you can undo or tighten things that may come loose or get knocked loose/broken/bent .. guards, fairings, pedals, levers etc. Lots of commonality so it should only be a few tools in the end. Duct tape and twist ties can do wonders just in case.

    Small camera to record it all if your phone's isnt that great.

    Have your bike fully serviced and gone over by a good mechanic asking them to check every little thing for the trip, but do this a few weeks before and do at least 1 good ride after the service .. sometimes little things get, err, missed and its better to find out before the big one. Or do it yourself if you have the knowledge.

    Sunnies, of course!

    A few ziplock bags ... emergency waterproofing for your phone and other small things.

    For those moments when you need to just flake out take some music.

    And lastly, time. Have some extra time allowance to do things you didnt plan.
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  14. Thank you everyone! Just so you know, I am taking notes on everything so you're not being ignored if I don't respond to something. There's lots of things I am learning!

    I will be carrying cans of food and will try and cook as much as possible.
    Weight is a huge factor and also space so definitely going to have to do a few trial runs.
  15. Fun fact about "Jerry can's", they got there name from america and europe, the modern jerry can was designed by the germans during world war II, as the germans moved through europe they were leaving a trail of these fuel cans as other countries involved in the war found them and discovered how good they were they began to use them also and coined the term "jerry can". "jerry" was an ethnic slur for german soldiers in this time period.

    Consider this a useful fact that you may never have needed to know, but now you do anyway.
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  16. Not carried a swag but seen one, it did appear pretty bulky and _looked_ like it would be heavy.

    Here's a pic of my bike with a hiking tent, sleeping bag and self-inflating mattress in the carry bag tied on the back of a ventura rack It was pretty light.

  17. i just did a 4k trip through nsw and vic 2 weeks ago on my yamaha xvs 650, was my first real road trip on the bike. Not as big as yours but heres what i found.
    There are some really cheap pubs out there to stay overnight($25-$35) a night. Even if your camping most of the time every now and then you want somewhere to refresh/clean clothes etc.
    Go to google and type "closest hotels to Albury, nsw". A heap of big red dots some with prices will appear but a lot of real small red dots further out should show up as well. This is how i found real cheap pubs on my trip.For a self contained cabin Deniliquin was $190/night.Using the above method i found Finley 60km further had the same for $60/night and the place was real nice.
    Manage fatigue with honesty, not a deadline if you can help it. Sometimes i was able to ride all day and others i was done by 1pm and knew it was time.Dont be in the middle of nowhere nodding off on the bike, they call it the middle of nowhere for a reason.
    As mentioned above i ran out of fuel due to being smashed by headwinds between brown mountain and delegate. Funny enough i ran out of fuel 30km out of Orbost just as i got a rear flat tyre.
    Get premium nrma road side assist.For $200 it payed for $700 for towing and 3 night accom at orbost hotel. Its worth it for these sort of trips.
    I carried a motul spray can for emergency repair on a flat tyre, it got me an extra 20km but i see now 2 would have been more effective. Of course the cans are no substitute for being able to repair the puncture on the spot. I had the right tools and the puncture kit but wasnt confident taking the back wheel off on a cruiser with shaft drive.Point is it does happen and you gotta be ready to deal with it.
    I took just the summer mesh motorcycle jacket and used my RJ wet weather gear for an extra layer for the colder mornings and it seemed enough for me.The difference in temps surprised me a bit in a few areas.

    Theres probably more but for me lastly , treat it as a trip of a lifetime, take it all in, send us all the photos you can and have a great and safe journey.
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  18. ^^^ You fix punctures on the spot without removing the wheel, it takes 5 mins and is often a permanent repair. Never use the can of Finilec etc, they rarely work, and if they do they don't last. Very noob mistake if you got towed for a simple flat tyre..
    The repair going on in the pic was a huge hole, and it took some plugging, but I rode it 600km home ;)

    IMG_0944.JPG IMG_0939.JPG
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  19. Ahhhh the wonderful orange box known as the tomcat! Those things are rippers!
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  20. The yamaha xvs 650 is a spoked wheel with a tube, plugs are useless unfortunately. I will upgrade the bike eventually and the next one wont have spoked wheels/tube